What is Frontex, The European Border and Coast Guard Agency?

frontex etias

Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency is responsible for coordinating EU border control. It assists the EU Member States, helping them to manage external borders, particularly in times of increased pressure.

Frontex focuses on the prevention of cross-border crimes through targeted operations. It shares intelligence with national authorities and Europol, working together to create a safer Europe.

In addition, Frontex will be involved with the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS). The agency will set up and manage the ETIAS Central Unit.

What does Frontex do?

Frontex coordinates European border management. It helps EU Member States maintain secure borders, preventing cross-border criminal activity and irregular migration.

Its main activities take place at sea and land borders. However, they also carry out operations at international airports.

The name Frontex comes from the French frontières extérieures (external borders). Although each member state is responsible for its border security, Frontex is available to offer support, especially in times of crisis.

The work of Frontex can be divided into 5 main tasks, as explained below.

Data analysis to prepare for challenges at the border

Frontex looks at data regarding EU external borders and shares their findings with member states. In particular, Frontex studies:

  • Migratory patterns
  • Trends in cross-border crime

The agency also assesses how ready an EU member state is to deal with issues at the border. Together, this information helps European nations prepare for migratory pressure and other challenges.

Joint operations and rapid border interventions

Frontex assists member states through joint operations and rapid border interventions such as sea rescues when these challenges do arise.

Frontex deploys European Border and Coast Guard teams which include border guards and other personnel. The agency also mobilises vehicles, aircraft, and other equipment.

Identification and screening of migrants arriving in Europe

Frontex also assists with screening, identification and fingerprinting of migrants arriving in Europe.

It provides migrants with information about applying for national protection; however, the decision to grant protection lies with national authorities, not Frontex.

The agency helps EU Member States with the return of people who are not able to legitimise their stay in the EU.

Specialised training across Europe

The agency provides training to border guards throughout Europe. The courses ensure officials have access to the specialist knowledge and skills of Frontex.

Fishing control and compliance with maritime regulations

Frontex works with the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) and European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA).

By sharing information it helps promote compliance with maritime regulations and detect pollution.

Frontex structure and divisions

To perform the tasks listed above, the European Coast Guard Agency is divided into several different divisions.

These include the Operational Response Division, the European Centre for Returns, and the ETIAS Central Unit Division.

There are currently more than 1,200 employees from 29 countries working in the various Frontex divisions. This number is expected to increase in the next year in preparation for the implementation of ETIAS.

Frontex and the ETIAS Central Unit

The agency’s ETIAS and Interoperability Task Force will set up and manage the ETIAS Central Unit. The role of the ETIAS Central Unit is to:

  • Process visa waiver applications
  • Provide travellers and carriers with assistance

Frontex plans to employ more than 200 members of staff to work on the ETIAS Central Unit in November 2023.

Key information about Frontex

Here are the answers to some of the most common questions about Frontex and its origins.

When was Frontex created?

In 2004 the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States was established.

This would later become Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, with a new regulation in 2016.

Where is Frontex based?

Frontex is based in Warsaw, Poland. European agencies specialising in different areas are distributed throughout the EU Member States.

The year Frontex was established, 2004, was also the year Poland joined the European Union. As Poland did not yet host any European agency, it was selected as the headquarters of the agency.

Although it is based in Warsaw, its operations take place at land and sea borders, as well as international airports, in countries including Spain, Italy, and Greece.

How much is the budget of Frontex?

The budget of Frontex has grown significantly since its creation. In 2005, the agency had a budget of 6 million euros. By 2020 that had increased to 460 million euros.

Are there Frontex border guards?

The European Border and Coast Guard standing corps is the first uniformed service of the European Union. It will be composed of Frontex and EU Member State guards.

The guards will work at external EU borders and some non-EU countries. The standing corps will have the power to verify an individual’s identity and nationality and grant or refuse entry to the EU.

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